(b. 1755, Paris, d. 1842, Paris)

The Genius of Alexander

Oil on canvas
The Hermitage, St. Petersburg

Vigee-Lebrun received early training from her father, a painter in pastels. Other teachers and those helpful in her career were Doyen, Vernet, Davesne and Briard. She also copied the old masters, particularly Dutch art. She soon became a celebrated portrait painter and was appointed court painter to Marie-Antoinette. She became a member of the Academy in 1783. She had to leave France in 1789 because of her court connections. From that time she travelled widely visiting Vienna, Dresden, Berlin, London, St Petersburg and Switzerland, and was inundated with academic honours and commissions. Her emotional, idealising portraits of women and children, which were often criticised for their sentimental touches, were representative of an international style of portraiture already in transition; the characteristics come out more fully in her many self-portraits.